Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative partners with Educational Theater of New England
New program for high school, college students aims to raise awareness around depression, suicide
November 3, 2008
The Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative (SDPI) at Children's Hospital Boston has partnered with Educational Theater of New England to develop a program for high school and college-aged students that addresses depression and suicide. The centerpiece of the new program is a play called "The Key," a one-man theatrical production written by award-winning playwright and Clark University Associate Professor Gino DiIorio and produced by Sydney Patten, executive director of Educational Theater of New England. It tells the story of a student struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. It takes an experiential approach, where students can see, hear and emotionally experience the struggles associated with depression and suicide as depicted by the main character.
The shared vision of the SDPI and Educational Theater of New England is that "The Key" will spur dialogue about depression, leading to enhanced knowledge and awareness, and to help de-stigmatize the disease.
"Swensrud is continuously looking for innovative approaches to promoting awareness and early identification of depression," said Nadja Reilly, PhD, director of the SDPI. "We are delighted to support the Educational Theater of New England in this endeavor and have developed a comprehensive program around the play to ensure that proper support systems are in place and resources available to those who may have questions about mental health after attending the performance."
Components of the program developed by Dr. Reilly and the Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative include:
- Training sessions - Any school or college campus where "The Key" is presented will be required to have personnel participate in mandatory training sessions prior to the play in order to prepare them to help students who may be struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide. They will be trained to identify the signs and symptoms of depression, what policies and procedures are in place at a given school if someone is experiencing a crisis, and what resources are available for support.
- Follow-up consultations - Swensrud will reconnect with the people who went through the training program three, six, and nine months following the play to see how the play has impacted the culture of the school, whether people made self referrals or referred others, and whether it helped schools talk more broadly about mental health issues.
The premier performance of "The Key" will be held at Clark University in Worcester at 7pm on Tuesday, November 11 and is open to Clark students, faculty, staff and invited guests. The program will be introduced by Massachusetts State Senator Robert Antonioni. Clark University graduate student Danny Balel will perform.
"If we can raise even one person's awareness about what symptoms of depression look like; if we can get people to ask more questions; if we can get one person to say 'I'm concerned about my friend because this is the language and type of behaviors I am seeing,' then we will consider this program a success," continued Reilly.
"This program is a result of the creativity and collective knowledge of over one hundred people who are dedicated to helping youth with mental health issues," said Sydney Patten, the play's producer. "We chose to present the play in this manner, in a supportive environment with trained faculty and staff, to help show kids that they are not alone, that there is hope and resources are available to them. By putting a program in place and starting these conversations, I believe we will help a lot of people and give them the tools they need to help themselves and their peers."
Patten's first production, "The Yellow Dress," focused on teen dating violence and has been seen by more than one million high school and college students. Written by Deborah Lake Fortson, it has helped enumerable young people extricate themselves, often with help, from dangerous relationships. Since the success of "The Yellow Dress," Patten has focused on replicating its positive impact on youth in the treatment of depression and suicide.
The Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative (SDPI) is part of Children’s Hospital Neighborhood Partnership Program, the community outreach branch of the hospital’s Department of Psychiatry. SDPI focuses on consultation and program development and follows a preventive, strength-based approach to mental health – one that promotes proactive rather than reactive efforts. Their goal is to provide strategies and supporting materials that allow schools and communities to develop a plan for integrating adolescent mental health issues into their overall educational and community programming.
Founded in 1869 as a 20-bed hospital for children, Children's Hospital Boston today is the nation's leading pediatric medical center, the largest provider of health care to Massachusetts children, and the primary pediatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. In addition to 397 pediatric and adolescent inpatient beds and comprehensive outpatient programs, Children's houses the world's largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries benefit both children and adults. More than 500 scientists, including eight members of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 members of the Institute of Medicine and 12 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Children's research community. For more information about the hospital visit: www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom.